Understanding the Coronavirus Crisis: Key Fiscal and Economic Indicators | Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Understanding the Coronavirus Crisis

Key Fiscal and Economic Indicators as the Nation Responds and Recovers

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented national emergency requiring a significant federal response. This page provides resources and analysis, tracking the actions our leaders are taking to respond, and providing insights on the state of America’s fiscal and economic outlook during the recovery.

GDP Growth


Q1 2020

Real GDP is expected to drop by an annualized rate of 40 percent in the 2nd quarter of 2020.

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Cumulative Budget Deficit

$1.9 Trillion

Cumulative Deficit for Fiscal Year 2020, through May

The federal deficit is expected to reach about $3.7 trillion this fiscal year, nearly 4 times higher than last fiscal year.

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Unemployment Rate


June 2020

The unemployment rate has improved from its peak of 14.7 percent in April of this year, which was the highest of any month since January 1948 — when data were first collected.

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Cost of Coronavirus Legislation

$2.4 Trillion

Total Cost of Enacted Legislation to Date

Lawmakers have passed legislation funding a range of new and existing programs aimed at providing economic relief.

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Interest Rates


Interest Rate on 10-Year Treasury Notes, as of July 8, 2020

The Treasury has been able to borrow cheaply because the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gross Federal Debt

$26.4 Trillion

As of July 6, 2020

The amount of federal debt held by the public is anticipated to exceed the size of the economy by the end of this fiscal year.

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Real GDP Growth

Indicator Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Gross Domestic Product, May 2020.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021, April 2020.

Cumulative Budget Deficits

Indicator Source: Department of the Treasury, Monthly Treasury Statement, Issue for May 2020.

Note: The federal fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021, April 2020.

Unemployment Rate

Indicator Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Employment Situation — June 2020, July 2020.

Total Cost of Coronavirus Legislation Enacted

Indicator Source: Congressional Budget Office, Cost Estimates of: H.R. 6074, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, March 2020; H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, April 2020; H.R. 748, CARES Act, Public Law 116-136, April 2020; H.R. 266, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, April 2020.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021, April 2020.

Note: The indicator reflects the sum of the estimated deficit costs of the legislation.

Interest Rates

Indicator Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Today's Auction Results, July, 2020.

National Debt

Indicator Source: Peter G. Peterson Foundation, What Is the National Debt Today?, May 2020.

Note: Each business day, the U.S. Department of the Treasury reports the amount of debt outstanding at the end of the previous business day. Our formula uses that number, as well as debt projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), to estimate the rate at which the debt is currently growing. Our estimates reflect the latest information from Treasury and CBO projections that are updated 2–3 times per year.

Gross federal debt equals debt held by the public plus debt held by federal trust funds and other government accounts. In very basic terms, this can be thought of as debt that the government owes to others plus debt that it owes to itself.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021, April 2020.


The Latest and Trending

Latest insights from the Peterson Foundation on the fiscal and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

What is the Economic Damage from the Coronavirus?

It will take time to fully understand and measure the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy. However, recent insights and projections paint a clear picture of significant damage affecting every American family and business.


The coronavirus pandemic is upending the labor market, causing unemployment conditions not seen since the Great Depression.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has Caused a Massive Increase in Claims for Unemployment Insurance

Claims for unemployment insurance have skyrocketed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Unemployment Numbers Improve in June – but Remain Historically High

Millions remain out of work as the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic.

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The pandemic continues to have significant financial and economic impacts across wide swaths of American society. Most respondents say they would use an additional federal stimulus payment to cover basic living expenses like housing, food or utilities.

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  • Brookings

Making Sense of the Monthly Jobs Report during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Brookings Institution provides a guide to understanding and interpreting data on employment.

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  • Mercatus Center

The Real Unemployment Rate is Probably Higher than Anyone Realizes

The Mercatus Center discusses the limitations in how the official unemployment rate is measured and how the number may actually be higher.

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Economic Growth

The response to the coronavirus has drastically affected the economy as consumption decreases, businesses are shuttered, and jobs are lost. Below are some resources outlining the depth of the economic impact of the pandemic.

First Economic Growth Report Under the Coronavirus: Real GDP Falls 4.8% in First Quarter

The new numbers demonstrate the severe economic damage and significant fiscal implications of this unprecedented crisis.

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Before the pandemic, the U.S. economy was in its longest expansion since World War II and had notably low unemployment. The pandemic and the resulting reductions in social and economic activity, however, have altered that trajectory.

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  • Washington Center for Equitable Growth

The Coronavirus Recession is Severe, and the Damage to the U.S. Economy Will Last Years

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth presents an overview of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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  • American Action Forum

Addressing the Economic Impacts of COVID-19

The American Action Forum lays out the impact the coronavirus is having on the U.S. economy and how it may affect the country’s economic outlook.

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  • Bipartisan Policy Center

Reopening America: Protecting Public Health and Rebuilding Economic Strength

In a new initiative, the Bipartisan Policy Center is highlighting the key challenges to supporting and sustaining an economic recovery.

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Legislators have responded to the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and additional phases of relief are likely to come.

Legislative Actions to Date

Policymakers have enacted a number of initial relief packages designed to address the unique health and economic aspects of the pandemic.

Here’s Everything Congress Has Done to Respond to the Coronavirus So Far

A recap of legislation enacted to date and an overview of what some analysts believe future support should look like.

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What’s in the CARES Act? Here’s a Summary

The $2 trillion relief package is the largest in history. Here’s what’s in it.

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Poll: 82% of Americans Want Federal Relief Extended

Respondents were more likely to believe the pandemic will get worse in their communities, and many support extending federal economic relief legislation.

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How Does the U.S. Economic Response to the Coronavirus Compare to the Rest of the World?

The coronavirus has affected the economies of countries across the world. See how the U.S. response compares to other countries.

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  • Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

COVID Money Tracker: Policies Enacted To Date

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is tracking the financial actions taken to address the current crisis.

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Program Spending

To help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus, lawmakers are providing funding for a number of new and existing programs in several key areas.

Safety Net Programs

Certain government programs are central to supporting the most vulnerable Americans during this time of economic distress.

The Coronavirus Has Led to a Surge in Spending on Unemployment Compensation

Federal spending on unemployment has been rising drastically. Here are the numbers.

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Spending on Medicaid Up 31 Percent Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

As Americans lose jobs due to the coronavirus and enroll in Medicaid, spending on this crucial program is rising.

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How Has the Pandemic Affected Federal Spending on SNAP?

As unemployment numbers spike, many more Americans are relying on SNAP, resulting in increased federal spending on the food security program.

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How Will the Pandemic Impact Social Security’s Finances?

Social Security’s finances were already in trouble — and that was before the effects of the pandemic.

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  • Kaiser Family Foundation

Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Loss

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly 27 million people in households experiencing job loss are at risk of losing their health insurance. See how many would be eligible for coverage under other programs.

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  • EconoFact

Income Assistance for Low-Income Workers during the COVID-19 Crisis

EconoFact scholars analyze which safety net programs are designed to provide support to those who need it.

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Relief for Individuals

In response to the pandemic, the government has provided both direct and indirect aid to individuals in the form of stimulus checks, student debt relief, and more.

How Many Coronavirus Stimulus Checks Have Been Sent Out So Far?

Congress has authorized direct payments to millions of Americans to help mitigate the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Breaking Down the $32 Billion of Airline Industry Payroll Support in Coronavirus Relief Legislation

The CARES Act provides up to $32 billion in federal aid to maintain employment in the airline industry. Here’s where that money is going.

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  • The Institute for College Access and Success

Resources for Student Loan Borrowers

The CARES Act provided some relief to student loan borrowers. The Institute for College Access & Success summarizes that aid and how it affects students.

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Small Business Support

Support for small businesses could be crucial to ensuring the health of the U.S. economy.

What Support Are Small Businesses Receiving During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

An overview of the various programs the federal government has funded to support small businesses.

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  • American Enterprise Institute

COVID-19’s Impact on Small Businesses: Deep, Sudden, and Lingering

The American Enterprise Institute provides insight into how small businesses have been affected during the pandemic and the government programs meant to help them.

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  • Urban Institute

Opportunity Lost with the Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program

Scholars at the Urban Institute discuss the shortcomings of the Paycheck Protection Program.

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Aid to State and Local Governments

Providing assistance to state and local governments is essential to helping them respond to the pandemic.

Pandemic May Cause States to Slash Social Services, Education, Police Budgets, and More

Governments warn that a budget crunch due to the coronavirus may lead to cuts to vital services.

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What Is the Coronavirus Relief Fund? How Much Is Left in It?

The Coronavirus Relief Fund allocates $150 billion in direct federal fiscal support to governments in states, territories, and tribal areas.

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  • Tax Policy Center

Congress Must Do More to Help States and Localities Respond to COVID-19

While policymakers have allocated funding to state and local governments to aid their response to the coronavirus, the Tax Policy Center explains why it may not be enough.

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  • National Governors Association

Governors’ Letter Regarding COVID-19 Aid Request

The bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors sent a letter to Congressional leaders summarizing why states may need more federal support to effectively respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

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  • The Volker Alliance

Special Briefing Series: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Fiscal Outlook of State and Local Governments

The Volker Alliance presents a series of briefings about the economic damage and long-term effects the coronavirus is having on state and local budgets.

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How Does the Coronavirus Affect the Long-term Outlook?

This crisis has revealed a lack of preparedness on many fronts, including our fiscal condition. America entered the pandemic with already high and rising debt and deficits due to structural factors in our budget. As we take necessary steps to fight the coronavirus, it’s clear that our fiscal outlook will worsen significantly. Once the current crisis is over, we must come to terms with our lack of national preparedness and our inability to plan for the future in many areas.

The National Debt and Deficit

The national debt is a key issue for America’s future.

Legislation to Fight Pandemic Has Reduced Federal Revenues by $500 Billion

The coronavirus relief bills included multiple tax credits and tax incentives that will reduce federal revenues over the next decade.

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The Current Federal Deficit and Debt

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the U.S. fiscal picture. Explore the monthly statistics on the federal budget and the national debt here.

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What Role Has Federal Debt Played in the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The Department of the Treasury has been able to finance the coronavirus relief spending at very low interest rates.

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What Is the National Debt Today?

An up-to-the-second counter of the national debt and more information about why it matters.

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How Does the Treasury Issue Debt?

As the United States borrows a significant amount of money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, learn more about Treasury borrowing.

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The Fiscal Confidence Index

The Fiscal Confidence Index is designed to help policymakers, members of the media, and the American public gauge public opinion on the nation’s fiscal and economic challenges.

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  • Manhattan Institute

Coronavirus Budget Projections: Escalating Deficits and Debt

The Manhattan Institute details the effects the coronavirus pandemic may have on deficits and debt throughout the decade.

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  • Center for American Progress

Temporary Fiscal Deficits to Avoid Permanent Economic and Social Damage from the Coronavirus

The Center for American Progress explores how temporary budget deficits can be used to combat the current economic downturn, but long-term structural deficits will need to be addressed after the economy recovers.

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The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of key fiscal challenges threatening America's future, and to accelerating action on them. To address these challenges successfully, we work to bring Americans together to find and implement sensible, long-term solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results.